Required Reading For Foodies! 5 Recommended Places in the Food Paradise of Fukuoka

The city of Fukuoka, the largest on the western island of Kyushu, is best known as the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen (also called Hakata Ramen, named after the city's neighborhood of Hakata). But it offers so much more in terms of local specialties, which includes varieties of dumplings, hot pot, and udon noodles! Here are five areas within Fukuoka, each with numerous eateries, where you can get your fill of Fukuoka's varied and special cuisine. No need for reservations - just head over, wander a bit, and pick a place that strikes your fancy!


Food & Drinks

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1. Enjoy A Sea of Food Stalls At Nakasu

In addition to its many distinctive dishes, Fukuoka cuisine is well-known for its tradition of "yatai," open food stalls that dot the city. Yatai have centuries of history, having evolved from wooden carts used to sell food during the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Despite having fallen out of popularity elsewhere in Japan, they are still beloved by the people of Fukuoka and have become an integral part of the city's food culture. 

The largest cluster of yatai is at Nakasu, a small island located smack-dab in the middle of the city. Between 6 and 7 in the evening, the stalls slowly open up to create an alleyway of light in the evening sky. No trip to Fukuoka is complete without stopping by one of these stalls, enjoying the warm and friendly atmosphere, and savoring some comfort food!

Three stalls are widely commended for their traditional Fukuoka fare. The first one, Yatai Donryu, sells one of Fukuoka's most iconic dishes: Hakata Ramen. This delicious ramen is characterized by a thick, silky "tonkotsu" (pork bone) broth and thin noodles, winning the hearts of foodies all over the world thanks to its striking taste! At Yatai Donryu, you get the chance to slurp the ramen while surrounded by the nostalgic ambiance of the food stalls. Even better, one of their mouth-watering bowls only costs 700 yen! 

Another great choice among Nakasu's yatai is Takechan. This very popular food stall specializes in bite-size "tetsunabe gyoza" (Japanese dumplings cooked on a hot iron pan) garnished with hand-made "yuzu kosho" (a type of Japanese seasoning made from chili peppers, yuzu peel, and salt). The gyoza here are said to be so delicious that customers even come from outside the prefecture just to eat them!

Finally, you shouldn't miss another of Nakasu's staple vendors, Yamako. The owner of this food stall used to work as a chef specializing in western cuisine, so the dishes offered here are fairly unusual for yatai! One of the most striking items on the menu is their signature grilled eggplants with "mentaiko" (pollock roe) and cheese. Mentaiko is one of Fukuoka's delicacies, and the chef of Yamako makes use of it in a very creative way! 

2. Try Some Heart-Warming Food At Tenjin, the Downtown Area of Fukuoka

Tenjin is the downtown area of Fukuoka, a transportation hub packed with fashionable shops, trendy bars, and popular restaurants. However, behind the shining buildings and modern facades, Tenjin also houses tranquil parks, quaint shrines, and a variety of charming, ancient buildings that give you a glimpse into Fukuoka's history.

Among the places that retain the vintage atmosphere of the city is Tenjin's yatai area, where food stalls serve mouth-watering Fukuoka specialties until the early hours of the morning. Cherished by the locals, Tenjin's yatai are a fundamental part of the neighborhood's nightlife and make for a great spot to experience Fukuoka's rich food culture while viewing townscapes of the past and the present. 

When in Tenjin, stop by Kitaro, where you can try Hakata's renowned "motsunabe" (a stew made from beef or pork tripe and other offal). At Kitaro, the chefs prepare this simple and old-fashioned Fukuoka dish with a soy-sauce-base broth, so it's very light and easy to eat. Especially popular during winter, this delicacy will be sure to keep you warm in the colder months! 

Another must-try specialty of Tenjin is Kokinchan's "yaki ramen" (grilled ramen). Founded 50 years ago, this yatai still enjoys unwavering popularity, as it is considered the birthplace of this unique Japanese dish. This unusual type of ramen consists of soft noodles, vegetables, pork meat, and "kamaboko" (a type of cured surimi) stir-fried on an iron plate and simmered in a sauce made from Hakata's famous tonkotsu soup. 

Also, if you happen to be in Tenjin, you can't leave without having a taste of Fukuoka's prized "mentaiko tamagoyaki" (egg roll with spicy fish roe) at Manryu. With a history dating back over 60 years, Manryu is one of the longest-running food stalls in Fukuoka and also the place that first invented the dish. The yatai’s best seller is still cooked following the same recipe that has been passed down generation after generation, so its delicious taste hasn't changed since its inception! 

Lastly, if you fancy something sweet, head to Daimyo Parfait Fruits Planet for one of their exquisite fruit parfaits. Fukuoka's rare and giant Amaou Strawberries are in season from November to May, so take advantage of this unique occasion and get your sweet fix! 

3. Savor Fukuoka's Fresh Seafood at Nagahama Fish Market

Nagahama Fish Market is Fukuoka's largest fish market and a great spot to get a taste of the city's delightful seafood cuisine. The market is usually not open to the public, except for the second Saturday of every month, when it opens its doors and visitors can explore part of its interiors and even witness a tuna cutting performance followed by a tuna auction. 

Even if you are not visiting during one of its opening days, you can wander around the souvenir shops located on the first floor of the market building, get a glimpse of the fish market's activities from the passageway on the second floor, and then dine in one of the area's many charming eateries.

Just a few minutes away from the market building you can enjoy one of the local delicacies, "goma saba" (mackerel sashimi with sesame), at Hakata Gomasabaya. They select all the ingredients every morning at the nearby Nagahama Fish Market to guarantee the outstanding freshness of their dishes. Among these, the "goma saba don teishoku" is exceptionally popular, as it is a luxurious but inexpensive set that includes mackerel sashimi marinated in soy sauce and white sesame, a bowl of rice, miso soup, salad, and a soft-boiled egg.

Conveniently located inside Nagahama Fish Market, Hakata Uogashi Ichiba Kaikanten is another great place to savor the fresh seafood of Fukuoka. So, don't forget to make your way to the first floor of the market hall for a taste of their mouth-watering mackerel sashimi! 


4. Yanagibashi Rengo Market - Taste Some Local Delicacies at the "Kitchen of Fukuoka"

Known as the "Kitchen of Fukuoka," this vibrant market houses 47 shops, including butchers, fish stores, greengrocers, and more. Praised for the high quality of the products, the market attracts chefs from all over the city and hungry visitors in search of the best food. 

The market first started in 1916 from an individual stall selling fish. It made the location so popular that other stalls decided to plant roots there. Yanagibashi Market is not only a historical spot with a charming, vintage atmosphere, but also the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs such as the local "karashi mentaiko" (spicy cod roe) or seasoned "nori" (dried seaweed) wrapped in beautiful, decorative boxes. 

The lively atmosphere of the market is even greater when experienced in one of Fukuoka's best izakaya with its specialty "torikawa" (a type of skewered chicken skin). Murasaki Yakitori Kenkyujo offers an extensive menu, but their skewered chicken skin is a must-try! The torikawa is perfectly grilled, so the inside stays juicy but the outside becomes deliciously crispy. Add to this the very inexpensive prices and you'll find yourself ordering more. 

Hakata Daruma is another can't-be-missed gourmet spot near Yanagibashi Market where you can fill your stomach with an earthy bowl of Hakata Ramen. Appreciated by many for its rich pork bone broth and super thin noodles, you'll be sure to leave Hakata Daruma satisfied!  


5. Kawabata Shopping Arcade - Feast on Fukuoka's Specialties While Enjoying Ancient Traditions

Kawabata Shopping Arcade is Fukuoka's oldest shopping street, a lively neighborhood with a history dating back over 130 years. The 400-meter-long shopping street comprises two arcades: Kawabata Chuo Shopping Arcade and Kami-Kawabata Shopping Arcade, which house 130 stores selling various goods, from apparel to restaurants, and specialty stores that create a very lively atmosphere. 

The Kawabata Shopping Arcade is also a valuable center of local traditions, as it is the place where the majestic Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival floats are exhibited during the celebration. One of the beautifully decorated festival floats is stored at Kawabata Zenzai Square all year round, so don't miss the chance to admire it! 

Many know that Fukuoka has some of the best ramen out there, but not so many are aware that the city also offers some great "udon" (thick Japanese wheat-flour noodles). So, if you are exploring Kawabata Shopping Arcade, take the chance to pay a visit to Karonouron. Founded in 1882, it is the oldest Hakata-udon specialty store in the city and also serves another delicious Fukuoka dish, "goboten udon" (udon garnished with fried burdock roots). At this long-established restaurant, they use homemade noodles that are made with local wheat and saltwater and are slightly flat and soft, while the fried burdock garnish is amazingly crispy and sweet. 

Another great option if you are in the area is Hakata Mizutaki Toriden, a restaurant that allows you to try Fukuoka's special hot pot, "mizutaki" (chicken hot pot). It takes 6 hours to prepare Toriden's milky chicken soup, for which they only use local ingredients. Once the soup is served, follow the restaurant's style and cook the meat first, then the "tsumire" (minced chicken), and finally the veggies. Dip everything in the hand-made "ponzu" (citrus-based) sauce and have the best time of your life! 

Craving something quick and easy to eat? Try Tetsunabe Gyoza, the restaurant that invented the original tetsunabe! At this popular gourmet spot, you can eat Fukuoka's delicious bite-size gyoza directly from a hot iron plate and appreciate the cooking skills of the chef who hand made the dumplings, cooking them crispy on the outside but keeping the filling incredibly juicy. 

Feast Your Way Through Fukuoka, a Foodie Paradise

Fukuoka is a real mecca for gourmet food! From delicious ramen to fresh seafood and mouth-watering gyoza, the city offers so much in terms of local specialties that you'll be sure to find something that fits your fancy and introduces you to new flavor profiles. Note down these outstanding restaurants and food stalls for the next time you plan to explore Kyushu's charming Fukuoka, and let your foodie adventure begin! 

Explore the Kyushu Area!

Fukuoka may be known as a food lover's paradise, but it is not the only area in Kyushu with mouthwatering delicacies! Each prefecture has its own specialties, so be sure to make your way around Kyushu to eat your way through all the gourmet options it has to offer!

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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Stefania Sabia

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